Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Long Weekend

My pal Scott likes to come up with a meme every New Year that he casts out onto the Internet in hopes of starting a fad. Last year it was make up an Amazon Basket of great books for under £50 or something, this year it's make a Spotify Playlist with a song which reminds you of every year of your life. I was actually tempted to do the latter - and I may yet - but I can barely remember last week half the time so it seemed more trouble than it was worth.

What did pop into my head though was the idea of books that bring certain periods to mind. Like I mentioned the other day, the mobile library reminds me so much of being a kid, looking through the net curtains in the kitchen, waiting for the library to pull up in our square, then the dash downstairs and back up with the permitted three books in my hands.

But certain books remind me of far more specific times.

Just before I left University, I was involved in the death throes of a relationship that had lasted me since the first week of second year. We'd drifted apart, as you do when you're twenty, and though we were still going out officially, we were really just friends. She'd got a room in a flat in town though, right above the old James Thins Bookshop and I'd gone round one Friday night after the pub. Next day we lay in bed all day, hungover, reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books, one after the other, in order. When I finished one I'd give it to her and then quickly get dressed, nip downstairs to buy the next one, then head back for bed.

All weekend we did that, following Laura from the Big Woods of Wisconsin, to Plum Creek and Silver Lake, then into town at Walnut Grove. It felt like watching a great long rambling movie, or a soapy mini-series - but one filled with right-wing Christian Americans, hating the Injuns and Big Government and loving the flag and self-sufficiency.

Laura lost in a blizzard and Pa on the march for work, the Long Winter and Mary going blind, Laura marrying Almanzo and then watching him cripple himself in a storm - over that long weekend we saw all of this unfold, buoyed up with innumerable cups of tea and hundreds of Malboro cigarettes.

And then, suddenly, almost unexpectedly, the books were finished and so were we...

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